The Oklahoma City Thunder will finally make its move in the buyout market, agreeing to a deal with 31-year-old small forward Corey Brewer for the remainder of the 2017-18 season. Brewer was bought-out by the Los Angeles Lakers on Wednesday and will now join the Thunder as its fifteenth and final roster member. He will reunite with Billy Donovan, the coach with whom he won two NCAA titles with at Florida in 2006 and 2007. The agreement was first reported by Shams Charania of Yahoo Sports.
The Thunder landed on Brewer after discussions with a number of potential options. According to Marc Stein of the New York Times, “OKC had exploratory discussions with Derrick Rose, Tony Allen and others, league sources say, but Brewer was OKC’s inevitable top target in the wake of the Andre Roberson injury. And as we touched on yesterday, with Billy Donovan as lead recruiter, OKC wasn’t going to lose out.”
Brewer appeared in 54 games for the Lakers this season, averaging 3.7 points and 1.7 rebounds in 12.9 minutes per game. He shot 45.3 percent from the floor but was downright atrocious from deep, converting on just 18 percent of his three-point attempts. If there’s a plus side to what he does offensively, it’s that he can be effective as a cutter. About 14 percent of his offensive plays in Los Angeles involved him being used as the cut man — and he shot 71.4 percent on those looks. In losing Andre Roberson for the season, the Thunder is down a reliable cutter on offense. Brewer can possibly give a little of that back.
However, and this should come as no surprise, he’s not headed to Oklahoma City to score points.
In whatever minutes Brewer ultimately sees for the Thunder, he will be asked to provide defense on opposing wings — something he’s proven capable of in the past. In 2016-17 he carried a DRPM of 1.00, 24th in the league among small forwards. He’s taken a step back this season, but if surrounded by Paul George and Steven Adams, it’s reasonable to believe he could be an impactful, plus-defender in the right situations. He’s averaged 2.8 steals per 100 possessions this season, capable of defending spot-up shooters, and intelligent enough to correctly guard the pick-and-roll. While he’s nowhere near being the replacement for Roberson, it’s a dart throw in the right direction. It may miss the board entirely but still — it’s clear what Sam Presti is hoping for.
While Brewer wasn’t my first choice of buyout candidates, his fit in Oklahoma City could make some sense if all goes well. He won’t be the savior of the season and should not deeply cut into Josh Huestis’ minutes. If that’s part of the deal, I’m out on it, but feel comfortable permanently moving Terrance Ferguson to the bench and being more situational with Alex Abrines. There’s a reasonable path forward here that doesn’t include thrusting Brewer into heavy minutes. He could end up being serviceable but he’s not the missing piece many hoped for.
As with all things Billy Donovan, we must now wait and see how he manages the roster. There’s comfort due to their time together at Florida — a nice head start that should help make the transition easier. If Brewer is eased-in and used strategically, maybe it’s a move that looks great in retrospect. If he becomes the latest Caron Butler and slides useful young pieces to the bench almost entirely, well, that would be a real shame.
Brewer’s deal will be for the veteran’s minimum and will become official when he clears waivers on Friday. More to come as this develops.